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Steve Coleman - The Mancy of Sound (Pi Recordings, 2011)

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Mancy is defined as “Divination by a specified means: ex. “geomancy." This suits saxophonist and composer Steve Coleman perfectly, as he has long been interested in numbers, symbols and their relationship to music. This wide ranging album features Jen Shyu on vocals, Jonathan Finlayson on trumpet, Tim Albright on trombone, Marcus Gilmore and Tyshawn Sorey on drums and Ramon Garcia Perez on percussion.With a lineup like that, you can imagine how deeply rhythmic the music is, and there is a multi-layered complexity present on this album that pervades most of Coleman's work. Yet, the music remains quite accessible, with Jen Shyu's remarkable vocalizations making an excellent pivot point for the instrumentalists to revolve. The brass also helps to frame Coleman's tart alto saxophone, which plays less of a dominant role on this recording than in the past. This is an ensemble work, with the musicians gathered together to investigate the mystery of music. The whole group gets a boiling and bubbling sound on the up-tempo opener, “Jan 18" in which the entire ensemble is involved in enriching the sound and contributing to the music, with Shyu using her voice as an instrument on par with any of the others. On one memorable track of the album the percussion drops out allowing her voice to become horn like and improvise tandem with the remaining brass instruments. The focal point of the album is the four part “Ifa Suite" where the band integrates island and African music into a deep rhythm and focus on uniting the forces of music like scientists trying to unite the four forces of nature. It's easy to see this album as a status report from musical scientists out on the edge of research, splitting the atomic structure of music scanning the skies for patterns, and finding harmony and beauty where one might least expect it. Mancy of Sound—amazon.com

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This story appears courtesy of Music and More by Tim Niland.
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